Wednesday, February 22, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!


We're studying a feathered "lady" of the Bible this week . . . the dove in Noah's story.
As we study her, we'll see how she contrasts with the first bird that Noah sent out: the raven.

First of all, the raven was an unclean bird. Let's look at Leviticus, where the animals are listed that are unclean:
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture,14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, (Leviticus 11:13-15)
There were certain animals and birds that God's people in the Old Testament were not allowed to eat. They were also not allowed to offer them as sacrifice to God. Most of the birds on the list are those that scavenge for their food -- and they are not connoisseurs. They'll eat anything. Including dead stuff. I know, ugh.
So, ravens actually feed on death. They eat the flesh of dead things. They look for, and hunt for, dead things.
In stark contrast, the dove is a clean animal. The people of God could not only eat them, but they could offer them as sacrifices to God. Let's look at some verses about them:
 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” (Genesis 15:9)
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. (Leviticus 1:14)
But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”(Leviticus 12:8)
Doves were clean animals, in contrast with the ravens. But God also seems to have a special place in His heart for them . . . Jesus used them in His teachings as symbols of purity and innocence. We all probably remember His words to His disciples:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
And perhaps the most memorable image of a dove in the entire Bible is after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:10)
Have you ever wondered what the significance was, that Noah first sent a raven, and then our friend, the dove? Why not just send the dove the first time, too? First an unclean bird, then a clean one?

Well, I guess the most simple answer is that God told Him to! After all, Noah had been obedient to God, and was following His instructions to the letter. (Grin)
But there are some other reasons that we can look at, today and again tomorrow. . . .

First, God may have been reminding Noah and all of us that the flood brought death. Remember, ravens literally look for death, and feed on death. After the flood, there was plenty of death.
The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:18-23)
Everything that breathed on land was dead. Everything. Not being dramatic here. Everything was wiped out.

Why? C'mon, doesn't the Bible tell us that "God is love," and all that? Absolutely.
The flood was brought because it was God's judgement on mankind. That's a word that isn't used much nowadays, but I'm an old fogey, and I believe that "mankind" means humans, not just the male variety. Women and men were guilty before God:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.This is the account of Noah and his family.Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:5-12)
God had given mankind (yeah, I know, there's that word again) plenty of chances. Their wickedness was "great," and every one of their thoughts was "only evil all the time." All of the earth was "corrupt" and "full of violence."
Sound familiar?
Like our world today?
Yep. Kinda makes ya think. And makes us want to "redeem the time," and tell others about Jesus before it's too late . . .
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
But I digress.
The flood brought death. And there was plenty of food for the raven.

But let's move on a little in the story . . . the raven looked for death. But the dove looked for life.
The message of the dove is two-fold: it is one of hope, and of life.
We'll study her more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Prayer requests


I don't believe it is a coincidence that God has led our studies in the past week and this, to focus on the Holy Spirit, and the bird that symbolizes His presence.

I would like to encourage you to read these verses about the Holy Spirit: His work, His identity, and His caring for us.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)
If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:12)

What an awesome gift Jesus gave to us, when He asked the Father for the Spirit to be with us and in us. He will guide us, teach us, and comfort us.

I would like to ask everyone to pray today, and share your prayer requests with all of us, so that we may pray alongside you. Several of our faithful readers have been experiencing health problems, and I know that the cares of this world can overwhelm us, too. Let us bear your burdens along with you.

Please let us know, too, if a prayer has been answered -- we can all praise God together!

Monday, February 20, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!


Our "lady of the Bible" for this week is a little unusual . . . we've looked at animals before, in our series, but this week's lady is for the birds. (Grin)

Remember the story of Noah? (That's where we find our friend the dove.) Did you know that many, many of the cultures across our globe remember his story? Well, in slightly different form, perhaps, but there are some striking similarities . . .

In Aztec legend, a man named Tapi was very pious, and received a message from the creator to build a boat that he could live in. He was also told that he should take his wife with him, along with a pair of every animal that was alive. Of course, all of his neighbors thought he was nuts. But he obeyed, and then the rain started, and the flood came. Even though they climbed the mountains to escape the waters, men and animals perished because the mountains were flooded, too. When the rain finally ended, Tapi let a dove loose from the boat, and when she didn't return, Tapi decided it was safe to go out.
If you travel to China there is an ancient temple where you can see a painting on one wall, showing a man called Fuhi in his large boat on the raging floods. There are dolphins swimming around his boat, and a dove with an olive branch is flying toward Fuhi.
Online research will net you about thirty-five countries that have "flood stories." East Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Egypt, Iceland and India  . . . these are just some of them. Thirty-two of these include humans being saved by being on a boat, and twenty-four of them include animals being spared. Last but not least, six of those include references to a dove!

Something must have happened on a world-wide scale, don't you think? (Grin) Of course, we know what happened! It was a flood that destroyed almost all of mankind (just Noah and his family were spared) because of their wickedness.
Let's look at the verses that we will focus on, shall we?
After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. (Genesis 8:6-12)
Scholars tell us that this was not the 40th day of the flood itself; the ark would have been afloat for months as the waters subsided and then began to recede.
Noah released the raven, and the Bible tells us that the bird never came back into the ark itself . . .it could have rested on the top of the ark, or perhaps it found a mountain top uncovered by the receding waters. But it never returned to the safety of the ark.

Our friend the dove was sent out three separate times -- the first time, she finds no place to rest her feet, so she returns to the ark and Noah. The second time, she returns with an olive branch in her beak, indicating that something is growing -- progress! Then, the third time, she flies away and does not return.

Why should we study this dove, and try to find lessons here for us?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
That's why! All of the scriptures, not just the parts we find enjoyable, or likable, but all scripture is God-breathed and useful. So this week, let's study the dove!



Friday, February 17, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit, conclusion


We're finishing up our collaborative study of the fruits of the Spirit this week. I so appreciate those who have invested their time in preparing posts for us to read and study. I would like for everyone to join me in praying for the improved health of all of our sisters who study here; there were several who would have liked to participate and provide a post, but their ill health prevented them. I pray that God will bless them with strength and much better health, and I send my love to them.

Today will be a sort of "round up" of the fruits that we've not studied yet: kindness, goodness, peace, and patience. (Oh, boy, that last one!)

First, let's endeavor always to show kindness to others; it is a trait that Jesus modeled for us, and we can look to His example as we strive to show kindness to all.

A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves. (Proverbs 11:16-17)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
Goodness. Not just to our believing friends, but even to our enemies . . .
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:35)
Another fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace. Inner peace that He gives us, and a peace that we share with the world, as instruments of His peace. . .
Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  (Romans 14:17-19)


Finally, let us try to cultivate and utilize patience. Oy vey. That's a tough one for me sometimes. Are we guilty of taking in the things that irritate and tax our patience, and just internalizing that stress? How much we miss, when we do not ask for His help in handling these things. Do we "take all we can" and then flare up at someone, and cause hurt feelings, or a tarnished testimony? Take it to our Father in prayer, and He will help us do better.
Be still before the Lord    and wait patiently for him;do not fret when people succeed in their ways,    when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;    do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:7-8)
This has been a wonderful week of study! Many thanks to all who "tuned in" here this week. Join us next week as we resume our "women of the Bible" series!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit, continued


Belinda has provided our thoughts for today . . .

Self-Control

To have self-control, we must restrain ourselves in action and word.
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

What does having self-control mean for us personally?
We are to:
·         Resist the temptation to break God's law.
·         Say no to lust and infatuation.
·         Make peace instead of adding to conflict.
·         Patiently bear with others.
·         Not automatically look out for self.
·         Be faithful and not have that faith shattered by mockers.
·         Go through the narrow gate toward good.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. Titus 3: 1-2

As the song says, Jesus could have called ten thousand angels to rescue him from the horror to come. But He rebuked the devil's temptations and followed through.  With the exception of the money lenders, Jesus was never harsh in His pointing out sin. He was never mean when someone begged him to help. And as he was beaten and tortured, he never lashed out those who were hurting him.  Talk about self-control--He defined it!


So why do WE need to have self-control anyway??? I believe it is part of our witness. Living a life as the Lord commanded, showing others that we are not conditioned to this world, but are set apart. In our response to aggravation, fear, anger, temptation, we show others where we stand with God. That is what we are meant to do. That is furthering the gospel. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit, continued


Our post today is from Belinda . . .

Gentleness
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Col 3:12
What exactly is Gentleness? According to one commentary, it is the humble and meek attitude of wanting to help others instead of being superior to them.  Dictionary.com describes it as kindly and amiable.
The word gentleness immediately brings to my mind a mother stroking her child's head. And someone who is always moving carefully and is slow to harsh action. I remember a former coworker who was so gentle, everything she touched seemed to be made of marshmallow. I never saw her "grab" anything. I envied her soft touch.
My dear brothers, take note of this; Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... James 1:9
I take this passage to be an instruction to not let your temper get the best of you. Being gentle means not flying off the handle at the least little offense and attacking others verbally. Does that mean being weak and letting others mistreat you?  I believe it means strength with control. It allows us to be tender, caring and nurturing to others. We can stay calm and not escalate problems or conflict.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov 15:1
There were times in my working years that I would receive a phone call from someone who was extremely angry, and looking for someone to take it out on. Did it upset me? Oh yes! But I knew that professionally, I couldn't attack back or be disrespectful. More often than not, calm and gentle words on my part diffused the situation. In my personal life, I have reacted the same way (MOST of the time) and it usually smooths ruffled feathers. I am a person who avoids conflict as much as possible, so it was a natural response for me. Sometimes with my family however, I wasn't so calm with my responses. Just ask my kids. *grin*

While reading about Jesus' time on earth, I realize how gentle he was. He was soft spoken, kind, quick to listen and always understanding. We ask ourselves what would Jesus do? He would be gentle. And so should we. Gentle words, gentle actions, gentle hearts. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit - our readers speak, part II


Our series continues today with Cindy's thoughts on "faithfulness."
When asked to write a post about faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit, I immediately felt that I should try; even though I sometimes think I'm very na├»ve when it comes to my understanding of the Bible.  Faithfulness to me means trusting in God as much as humanly possible.  That's not to say that I don't worry, and I know that's a sin.  But because of His faithfulness to me, I can ask for forgiveness and resume with my faith in him.  The song "Great is Thy Faithfulness" immediately comes to mind when I think of faithfulness too. The Lord is faithful to us even when we aren't faithful to Him.  I think that my favorite verse about faithfulness doesn't even have the word in it.  That verse would be Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. I try to live by this daily! 

Thank you, Cindy, and let's gather again tomorrow for our next post in this series!